The Los Angeles Lakers took a risk in signing Dwight Howard, even on a non-guaranteed deal as his messy history with the franchise is only part of the problem.
Howard has worn out his welcome in other cities as well as he has worn a different jersey in each of his last four seasons while proclaiming that each will provide him with the fresh start that he needs to get back on track.
The Lakers took the risk because Howard’s talent is undeniable. He is a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and for a considerable stretch, was widely regarded as the best center in the game. His ability to protect the rim and dominate the boards made him a force to be reckoned with. However, at 33 years old, that version of Howard is long gone, but given the paper-thin free-agent market, he was arguably the most talented player available.
What does Howard’s signing mean for Lakers fans, who have spent the last six seasons cursing him after he unceremoniously left Los Angeles to go to the Houston Rockets in 2013 NBA free agency? On this episode of the Lakers Nation News Feed, host Trevor Lane discusses Howard’s recent comments to the media and why there just may be reason to believe that this time it could really work.
As Howard explained in his debut press conference, the things that he says off the court won’t be what ultimately redeems him. His first Lakers stint sits as a missed opportunity on his resume — one that should have played out much differently. With Howard struggling to return from injury and his play (and personality) never quite providing the Lakers with what they needed, a few kind words here and there isn’t going to cut it if he wants to atone for the sins of the past.
Instead, it’s going to take living up to his word. Howard has to fit within the team concept, which is something that has occasionally been a challenge. He has demanded touches in the post on the offensive end despite advanced metrics clearly showing how inefficient he is in that scenario. On this Lakers team, Howard will have to adapt to his status as a role player and find a way to be content with doing the dirty work on the boards, setting screens, and giving his all on the defensive end.
If Howard can do those things while being a positive presence in the locker room, he just may have the redemption he craves. Based on his history, it would appear to be foolish to not be skeptical about his ability to live up to his words, but putting $2.6 million on the line by signing a non-guaranteed deal with the Lakers (and giving up that much guaranteed money with the Grizzlies) has to be taken as a positive sign that Howard is truly committed.
Let’s hope it lasts — for everyone’s sake.